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If you want the fuel efficiency of a hybrid powertrain but hate the looks of more popular hybrids, the 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid should be right up your alley. Now in its third year, the Fusion Hybrid and its plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi sibling retain the striking and well-received design of the gasoline Fusions, but deliver better gas mileage.
Ford suffered a bit of embarrassment in June 2014 when it discovered "testing errors" that had led it to inflate the fuel-efficiency ratings it submitted to the EPA for both hybrid Fusions. So the 2015 Fusion Hybrid has been lowered to 42 mpg combined (44 mpg city, 41 mpg highway) from 47 mpg combined (47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway) in the earlier model years--and those ratings have been retroactively cut too, with Ford sending checks to buyers to compensate them for the extra gasoline they bought. That's still better than the hybrid versions of the Camry (41 mpg combined), Optima and Sonata (38 mpg).
Similarly, the 2015 Fusion Energi is now rated at 38 mpg combined (88 MPGe efficiency, with 19 miles of electric range), reduced from 43 mpg combined (100 MPGe efficiency, with 21 miles of electric range). That puts it well below the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid's 46 mpg combined, however, and just 1 mpg better than the smaller Chevy Volt's 37 mpg combined when operating in range-extending mode. As for range, the plug-in Accord is rated at 15 miles and the Chevy Volt at 38 miles.
Moving beyond the lower gas-mileage ratings--which are still pretty good for mid-size sedans--the Fusion lineup is selling well in general. The Fusion Hybrid competes with a growing array of mid-size hybrid sedans from Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia. The Fusion Energi faces off against the plug-in hybrid model of the Honda Accord, plus both the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (a hatchback) and the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car (a four-seat compact hatchback).
The sleek Fusion design wears its racy fastback shape well, led by a large oblong grille opening and slanting down to a tail that could almost be a hatchback--but isn't. Choose colors carefully; it tends to look better in darker shades that play up its racy lines, whereas light colors make it look heavier and thicker through the middle. Toyota has redesigned its Camry for 2015--you be the judge there--and the carryover Hyundai Sonata Hybrid looks overstyled against the revised 2015 Sonata only offered with a gasoline engine. For our money, the Honda Accord's crisp, traditional sedan lines are the nicest shape in the group after the Fusion.
An "all-glass" instrument cluster behind the steering wheel lets drivers configure a variety of data and graphic displays, showing more or less operating information as desired. Luckily, Ford fits redundant old-style knobs for things like climate control and radio volume--for those who find the controversial MyFord Touch voice and touch controls on a central screen frustrating. The Fusion still uses capacitive touch-sensitive buttons for many controls, which also take some getting used to.
The Fusion Hybrid and Energi models have more interior volume than the last generation, but rear headroom is hurt by that descending fastback roofline. The seats are well-shaped and comfortable, with a recycled synthetic material covering base-model Hybrid seats. There's ample knee room for four six-foot adults, though the front wheel wells push feet toward the center of the car. But the headliner drops to accommodate the optional sunroof, and taller rear-seat riders will find their forehead nestled in a recess that requires slumping to move forward and clear the bulge.
The two hybrid 2015 Fusions use the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a two-motor hybrid system that functions like a continuously variable transmission (CVT) even though it's an entirely different technology without expanding pulleys and belts. The lithium-ion battery pack is located in the trunk, with a larger and higher-capacity pack in the Energi plug-in hybrid. Badges aside, by the way, the only way to tell the Energi model apart without looking in the trunk is to notice the charging port on its left front fender. The Fusion Energi has a 3.3-kilowatt charger that will recharge a fully depleted battery pack in 3 to 4 hours.
Both hybrid Fusions drive quietly and smoothly, with well-isolated engines and a low noise level even when they're running at maximum speed. Part of this can be attributed to Ford's active noise cancellation, which sends anti-noise through door speakers to cancel some of the frequencies that sound like the car is straining. It's the same technology used in the Ford C-Max as well, and it works imperceptibly. Ford has some of the best regenerative braking in the business, and the transitions are largely seamless.
Good handing has always been a Fusion benefit, and the hybrids hold the road well, though they're notably heavier and less lithe in corners when you drive them back to back with the gasoline models. They're still better on the road than any of their hybrid competitors, though. Ford gets special credit for managing to keep the noise from their low-rolling-resistance tires in check, while delivering not only good handling but a forgiving ride that stays firm but doesn't jar. The only thing we'd fix would be the low-geared steering, which takes more turning than we expected to shuffle the Fusion through a series of back-and-forth turns.
The Ford Fusion is a Top Safety Pick for 2015 and the highest "Good" ratings from the IIHS for all categories except its new small-overlap front crash test, where it scores an "Acceptable". Meanwhile, the Fusion gets five stars (the highest rating) for overall safety from the NHTSA, and five for frontal crash. Its side crash and rollover are rated at four stars.
The 2015 Fusion hybrids haven't changed much from previous years; standard features include Bluetooth pairing. Options--which can add up quickly from the long list--include parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and lane-correction and lane-departure systems.A technology package that adds the 8-inch LCD touchscreen for the MyFord Touch system also includes the rearview camera as well. Other options are remote starting, leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, and that space-stealing sunroof. Ford's excellent active park-assist capability measures a parking space and steers the car into it, while the driver accelerates and brakes; that's optional as well.
The Fusion Hybrid starts at a reasonable $27,000, and both hybrid Fusion models are doing quite well for Ford--with the plug-in hybrid model even outselling the C-Max Energi model, despite a starting price of almost $40,000.
For more on the gasoline versions of this mid-size sedan, see our review of the 2015 Ford Fusion.